Bias. We hear the word a lot and in fact we observe it far more than we might think. Our biases are presented in our beliefs, our language, our friends, our social networks and even in the roles we play at work and in our community.
What is bias? Here’s the Wikipedia view “Bias is disproportionate weight in favour of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair. Biases can be innate or learned. People may develop biases for or against an individual, a group, or a belief”.
Because we are often oblivious to our bias i.e. it is hidden from us due to the fact that we accept is as normal and the way we are, it inhibits genuine opportunity to build diversity and inclusion into teams and work places.
There is a saying that states ‘what is like me I like and the rest (others) makes me uncomfortable so I won’t get involved or engage’. Scott Bolton from Delta Concepts Consulting presents a very clever YouTube clip to leaders on this subject.
Providing participants with a sheet folded to present a single column, he asks people to list their top 10 people that they trust – not family members. Once that is done, he has them unfold the sheet and populate a set of diversity dimensions that include gender, age, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status and a couple of others.
What is not surprising is that the vast majority of the time the ten people trusted are carbon cop-ies of the participant! ‘What is like me I like’ right!
He suggests that we also have three levels of people around us in our workplaces. Level 1 are people we are aware of, slightly acquainted with and perhaps getting go know. Relatively large, this group are the greatest in their diversity. Level 2 are around 20% of the numbers of level 1 and are those we would be comfortable enough to have at a social event with like a barbecue or a party with others.
Then we have level 3 our top 10 trusted people from whom we will seek advice, support for ideas and perhaps provide opportunity and development to. You can see where this is going!
What happens when we rely on our trusted group is that we will replicate the world we live in and close the door on the opportunity to seek truly diverse perspectives. As a leader that means over time, we will diminish genuine opportunities for growth, development and change for both people and the business we are tasked with leading.
Have you ever thought to recognise and challenge you own bias? It takes a bit of work and it’s worth it for the difference it makes.